What could be a lively opportunity for grassroots activists to meet at least five Washington gubernatorial hopefuls face-to-face is scheduled Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Preston Community Center in east King County, which may seem like the “belly of the beast” so far as political turf is concerned, but maybe not.
Why this should interest people in other states seems simple enough. This is grassroots in action; an opportunity for citizens who feel they’ve been disenfranchised to essentially get in the game and have their voices heard by people who want their votes, and their campaign contributions. Movements are born in such environments.
King County is the bluest county in the Evergreen State, encompassing Seattle and its immediate suburbs. But east of Lake Washington, the terrain is more purple and in some neighborhoods crimson red. Indeed, King County posts the greatest number of active concealed pistol licenses of any county in the state, with more than 103,000 in circulation. As reported earlier in the week, the state has more than 645,000 active CPLs, suggesting that personal protection is a priority with one of every nine or ten law-abiding adults in the state.
The forum is sponsored by Common Sense Washington. Scheduled to attend are Republican State Sen. Phil Fortunato, Republic Police Chief Loren Culp, former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed, tech specialist Anton Sakharov and Independent tax warrior Tim Eyman. All five say it is time for Washington to have a dramatic change in leadership and direction, and they realize they may be up against a liberal Goliath in the form of the state’s Democrat Party machine that will fight to retain power.
The Preston Community Center might be just the spot for such an initial outing. Located just off Interstate 90, Preston is an unincorporated community that dates back generations. Once the site of a lumber mill, it’s now a quiet place that has grown over the years, but not like nearby Snoqualmie or North Bend. The building dates back decades, with a large stone fireplace, log exterior, a couple of tennis courts, and no small amount of atmosphere.
According to the schedule, there’s a social hour kicking off at 5 p.m. with a panel and audience Q&A from 6:15 to 9 p.m. There might be heavy media coverage, or perhaps not considering the venue. As with any true grassroots gathering, there will likely be an opportunity to register new voters.
One certainty is that candidates will likely talk about the state’s economy, taxes, urban crime, growth management and the widening division between conservatives and liberals. And guns; the Second Amendment is going to be a major political issue in 2020, especially in Washington State where the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility—the Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group—has successfully pushed through a trio of multi-million-dollar gun control initiatives over the past five years.
King County provided the heaviest vote totals supporting all three measures, but there is anger and frustration in the grassroots not only about guns, but about Seattle and King County efforts to nullify Initiative 976, the $30 car license tab measure. Eyman is a hero among anti-tax activists, while Culp holds similar status among gun owners because he was first among state lawmen to say he would not enforce provisions of Initiative 1639, last year’s extremist gun control measure.
Preston is in Washington’s 8th Congressional District, long held by Republicans until the 2018 election, when anti-gun Democrat Kim Schrier became the first in her party to represent the district. Conservatives want the district back, but so far, no Republican has made noises about running to challenge the former Issaquah doctor, who campaigned partly on a gun control platform.
There is an impression at the grassroots that the state Republican Party is weak and disorganized. The Preston gubernatorial candidates’ forum might help to change that, or it may reinforce the notion.